Symud i'r prif gynnwys
Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

8 erthygl ar y dudalen hon



OUR SHORT STORY. 1 THE DANGER LINE. I ? < By FRANK H. SHAW. j A certain case of some Siting notoriety startm a diBcussion in SheIIdykc's dugout, and he found something to say that was worth list<'niiig to. TiMre is nothing of the oracle about SheHdyke, but he certainly se<ms to keep his eyen wide open and his powers of observation always on the alert. You might say it is all rot about being able to hold converse with the spirita of the departed," he said, "but I'm net so sure .about it. And I certainly don't fee! in- <:Iiued to scoff In the way some of you chapa do. It's!y the most ignorant man who ia the most sceptical, anyhow. Men don't like to think of Rpirit pge..ce8 being around then. because to think they arc causes a chiMy feeling of discomfort, and makes the heart beat a little fatiter than normal; and we love to le&d an untram- jmellcd life, act thinkim- too much." Curtis. who was nineteen, and had an opinion on every sublet, from the duration of the war to the ndelity of women, had the grace to nnsh and settle back out of the littte ring of light thrown by the guttering candle. He had stated boldly that spiritu- was all bally rot. When I was quite a youngster—ten years fid or thereabouts—my p&ter, who had quaint ideas, decided thnt it was tim-o I was removed from the sapping inSuenoe of petti- coat government," ;i}d :hlè:vk, "He ha<d been brought up for his own part by nurses and gov-arne&ses and adoring aunts and that sort of thing, and he admitted to mo in after l:fe that one couid have too much of a pood thing. A man who spends mast of his time amoMgst women becomes rather an ob- jectionable sort of person—he domineers, he gets into the habit of laying down the law too strongly. "But as I WM only ten years old, it waa necessary that soiucnnc should look after me, and so 1 was handed over, lock, stock and 'barrel, to the son cf our old gamekeeper—a lad of abc.nt eigbtc-cn. Grant Lintom his name was. He became my companion in everything; be took me to school in the trap in t,hc moraiHg; he brought me back in the afternoon He put me to bed and got me up—did everything that a nurse would do. And some fine adventures we had together. I assure '?f'u. He wa-s a bom poacher, and he cculd d8 most things fairly well—swim and shoot and ride. He knew every bird by itg note. and could imitate most of then ;o faultlessly that I've seen him brmg a thrust dcwn off it" branch almond to his hand. The ways of foYM &nd weasels and the wild animals of the countryside were an open book to him. Ay, oe was a sound teacher for a youngster. He taught me almost everything he knew—as much as ho could =,e. Fine adventures we used to have together. We would scour the whole countryside f"r excitement; we would lie fut o' nightn till God knows what hour, doing the quaintest things. "Lord! I think I can fee him now, a Tough haired, rough spceched, untidy country lad. with a round, honest faco and big, red, cunBing hn-nds, his blue eyes always smHiag. It waa b<-althy companion- -ship for m". I tell you. We lived for the jcost part like young animals; and no ad- venture was teo preposterous for him to bear a hand, so loug aa Uie da-nger to me wasn't too great. For himself, he was utterly fearless; but he had promised in his solemn. steadfast way that No harm should come to me whilst I was under his care, and right well be kept tha.t promise. He faked up treasure hunts, with a bit of old parckment fomid in the stump of a holhw tree for a clue, and we'd hunt here aud hunt th-are, and find new clues, until we discovered the tre.Mure—probably one of his mother's wonderful home-made cakes or a peun'orth of bull's-eyes. I could tell you a tot about those d&ys, but you'd only be bored stiff. "When I went to school he was relieved of his responsibility, but it was always au understood thing that x.s soon aa I returned homa for the holidays he was immediately available. He used to meet me Rt the ,station, aad to ece bis decent face light up at igkt of me was good for the eyes. And even when I get into the Sixth I sort of looked up to him with respect and that sort of thing, evcB though I thought myself no end of a blood. Other friendships inter- vened, aa wa< only natural. I learnt that the little world of my paper's place wasn't all existence, but always I felt somehow that Grant wae a man to be obeyed. It was the same feeling, I suppose, that a man has for his schoolmaster—although they might meet after many ye",n;: a suggestion of awe and almost fear. "He was oHciaHT en under-keeper, but tvheu I was about he was everything I re- quired him to be. Ho groomed mv pony, later he cleaned my gun. Aud as I grew < older he preach&d to me of the wiles of the outer world, prt-ached vert seriousfy. although ha'd hardly ever been ten miles awav from the old pl.t3C. One doesn't say muh ".bout thf-e things, but if it hadn't been for his advice I might have como a good many more croppers than I have done. I used to chafe on the bit at times, and tell him that h.a was an eld woman, and resent his sert of nun'ig- f)f me; but I find now th. t he was invariably right. Well, thQ war came a!ong, and I had to join up. I'd played at soldiering before. bp(,cial Reserve work, which was fair tiain- iug, but which didn't sc-em like the real tjimg'. Gn.nt enlisted the day that 1 d"ned the kh?hi iato my own battnUon. Ho wanted to be my servant, but I wouldn't hear of that. He was too good a man for that sort of job—good enough to make a good N.C.O. out of. He rather kept my actual batman up to his work, though, êYe1 after he was made coiporai, and the rest of the fellows uaed to laugh at me and my pet* dog, as th<-y called him. We ca.m-9 out here. and went through the usual hellish time. During that appalling up-country journey I was the best-iookcd- atter :11'1 i th 't'ain-th:1nb to Grant. If the .train stopped for a minute anywhere he wa., tiicrf hanging on the handle ot the com- 13, door. wanting to know if I wanted anything. Hot tea waa forthcoming at the most unexpected times, and when we stopped for half an !(,ur there was always hot water for me to wash in and clean boots to don. "When it came to the actual nghting, I bies-?jd Uraat's najuc moie times than I can teli. AH that he had ever taught me caii-e in so amazingly useful. The same steady concentration on a bird's daily habits lielpcd me to concentrate on the habits of the Bochc sniper, which arc unpleasant. He and I used to go out B<x'hc statkiag o* uights, ",de! si):lrated, but in constant by little sounds that couldn't be œstiagu'iahed "by untutord ears from the ordinal'Y 8CHlIld:i of the night, and he would iire to draw lire, nnd I would are at the enemy's flash. We got rather a good bag one v/ay or another. "It catf;? about that I was temporarily shifted to another company—B. Its com- mander ha<I gone down with a dose of trench fever, but M was expected back quite soon. and my transfer was n-.erely temporary. I heard thr.t Grant wa.s very miserable during tny absence from my own company. Of cours- he vi-as in C Company; he'd insisted on that, aud probably bought the sergeant either body and soul to get thero. He us<-d to look mo tU1 on every possible occasion, and inquire ""fter my v/eH-being and bring <nc various dainties that he'd managed tu procure—a snared snipe or a hare, perhaps; I eaid he wns a born po:teher. "Our battalion was ordered to attack. It t wasn't a big show—?ust a little raid, to straighten "llt a small salient. We got it rather heavily going across, and we didn't Someone had blue. s.-r-ure our ob j ective. '?I dered somewhere. When tho roll was called Grant was missing. I made a !o)< of in- quiries, but no cue Wa6 able to tell me any- thing. He had been seen here, and he had n seen there, and ail admitted that he had done good work. I felt his loss very keenly, as you might expect, but I tried to cheer myself up with the hope that he had been taken prisoner. "The Boche gave us a. hcJl of a time after that attack, and got our dander up badly. We were all blazing for reprisals, and after a while I got permi&,ion to try a stunt that I'd been puzzling over for pomct time. I had scouted around a good bit, a.nd I'd come to the conclusion that the enemy didn't hold his front-line trenches at all strongly, relying on the caretaker and 'his wife to give warning of an impending attack. Anyhow, we always went in for the stereotyped artil- lery preparation before pushing forward, and that gave him suflicicmt warning. "My idea was to take a party forward b) night and penetrate the front-line trenches, destroy such machine-gun emplacememta as wo c:uld find, Ba.g a few prisoners, and, if possible, try to get through to the second line. It wasn't a big scheme--iiiit to put tho wind up brother Bcohe, and keep him annoyed, because in our sector we didn't go in for the you-Ieave-me-aIone-a-nd-ITl-kave- vou-alono kind of warfare. "I made a preliminary reconnaissance the mo-ht we were due to start, because I thought it might help, and one man isn't so valuable as nfty. That preliminary business is right, I contend, because any little thing might happ-cn to crab a shew if the man in charge of it hasn't satisfied himself as to the precise position in front of him. "I saw enough, or felt enough, rather, to satisfy me that everything was O.K. I even tumbled upon a breach in their wire, which would lot us through most hand- somely. I was no end bucked abotut that. as you might suppose. Thero'd been a bit of desultory artillery fire that afternoon, and we'd seed not a few of our eighteen- pounder ohaps drop on the Bcche parapet: but the giddy Teuton bird hadn't tumbled to it that his wire was cut, and that was beer for ua. "Everything promised to pan out aa we'd hoped, perhaps better. I went back and got mv gang together, and out wo started, each man carrying as mny bombs as he cQ.u)d dispo&p of. We'd got it all cut nnd dried: I'd explained to each man exactly what he was expected to d. and what he would do if h,, didn't do as he was expected —you know? Plans in our lines don't always work out correct to the last decimal in their lines, eh? "I led the way, as was expected of me. and the rest followed. I intended to takc them through that gap in the wire, and I reckoned we'd ha in their trench in no time. It was all going to be just a pleasant even ing sprint, and we should all be back in tirii,, for a late supper. "They sent up a batch of Vcrey lights just as wo reached the wire, and we cowered low among tho slell-holes and dahlia until they should have died cut. I was just at the entrance of the gap. a little way up it. in fact. with my head pressed very elope tr. Mother Earth, and my bndy all shrinking and goose-neshy, when I distinctly heard a voice sav Don't'ee. Maister Eric. don t'cc. There be ter"ol,) trouble ahead o' thee if 'ee go too far.' "They were spoken in Grant's voice, with his very accent. I looked round, expccth'g to see him. so real was the Impression of his presence that was conveyed to me. But on'.v Clive, my sub., waa 'there. I called- it hallucination, because I'd been thinking a lot of Grant iu my spare ti'np. One thinks very c'uickly at such times, as you all know. Mybrain was over-excited and playing me tracks, I decided. So I waited till the Vercy lights died out, a,d then I crept on. Another light went up, and I snuggled down ag nat as a wafer. T heard the voice again Don't'ee. Maister Eric, don't'ce.' It was exactly as he'd said it when I'd been riding mv p'?ny at a fence that was full of con- c?)!cd wire. And I got cold all over. I can't quite give you the impression that was conveyed to me. I wasn't unduly superstitious in those days. but the sensa- tion of Grant's actual presence was; ao marked that I again looked about for Rim. Nothing of him, of course. So I moved on again, and this time tho voice even more insistently. It s-eemcd to be actually a solid thing, forcing me back. And—I couldn't help but obey. That sort of awed fear which I told you of was possessing me. I seemed to forget'that I was a grown man leadin? a desperate expedition; it was as though I was a boy again. But I went for- ward a bit more. ::ud then a bit more, and each time tho voiea spoke distinctly, warn- ing' m0. CHTC, at my right rear, was growing impatient:. 'Go on. :nan lie said. What arc w.' '.vniting forF' It seemed a silly thing to do. but I turned and got my mouth close to his car. I've been warned not to go any farther this v.?y,' I said. We'll try another road. Get the men together and tell them.' "He laughed rather nastily. "'Who's warned you?' be asked. I couldn't very well ssy, could I? But I was just searching about for some sort of reason- able explanation wher his impatience got the better of him. and bp nipped past me and on through the gap. I was all for fol- lowing him when—the voice came again, terribly Insistent. More than the voice—I coil, feel a hand thrusting me back. And th<'u—it all happened very quickly—there was a blinding M'-h and a thunderous roar, and the whole world before me went up in fire. It scented to me, although I was half- stunned by the explosion, that I had heard the swift tinkling of a little electric bell immediately before the mine was blown. "A shower of earth and sandbags and re- fuse generally came r3.iuing down on us where we crouched, atld the enemy machine- guns began tb get busy. SoiMethmg' weighty thudded into the earth beside me, and as I instinctively reached out my hand I felt a tin hat lyuig there. As a souvenir of a unique experience, I decided to bag it, and stun- it to my belt. Then we carried out the raid on the alternative plan, and it was a success. "Clive was never seen again; he'd been destroyed utterly. But when we got back, when I was cleaning up I came across the tiu hat. It v/as battered and dented and there was much clay on it; but even so it was possible to read if name written with in- delible pencil in the lining. "The name was Grant Linton, Coriioral, with the correct regimental number. I don't know what had boon his fate. Blown to pieces by a shell, probably. But-well, dou't you think I've talked enough? After all, you can dr:.w your own conclusions, being inteIHs'ent men."


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